Becoming a parent is an exciting, transformative time in one’s life, and that is true whether you’re carrying your own baby, working with a surrogate, or adopting a child into your home. For would-be parents looking at the wide range of options out there for expanding their families, adopting a baby or a child can be a controversial decision because of widespread social attitudes about biological heredity.
The fact is, adoption represents a way to put children with loving families and to make lives better for the biological parents, the adoptive family, and the kids themselves. If you are ready to move forward with the process, there are a few things you should know before you get started.
Understanding the difference between adoption systems, as well as the fact that they vary from state to state in their requirements, is vital to making sure you know how to navigate this process before you plunge in.
Voluntary vs. State-Sponsored Processes
In most states, there are separate resources for would-be parents who are looking to adopt an infant through a voluntary process and those who are looking to adopt through the foster care system after parental rights are terminated, because generally speaking the state’s child welfare resources do not concern themselves with voluntary adoptions. Instead, the transfer of legal parenthood happens through a court petition.
While adopting a baby from a voluntary biological parent is generally a smooth process because both parties are seeking the arrangement, there are details to negotiate that can represent some sticking points. By contrast, when seeking an adoption through state placement, the process involves weighing the best placement choice for the child. In the U.S., 59% of all placements are through the child welfare system.
Here’s what you should know about the two systems:
- State welfare agencies seek to act as quickly as possible after parental rights are terminated, provided placement can be found and proven to be in the best interests of the child
- Some states include placement subsidies to help cover the costs of children adopted through the system, especially older children
- Most state placements will not be infants, although many are very young children
- Placement takes longer when you have more specific requirements, whether those are related to age, genetic background, or other factors, and regardless of the type
- Voluntary adoptions can be open or closed, with several degrees of compromise, if parties want the biological parent to be involved
If you do choose to use the voluntary system, then you need to know how to navigate it, because there is not a centralized system for administering placements when you are adopting a child who is voluntarily placed with a family. Luckily, there are information networks to avail yourself of if you’re looking.
You might need to put more time and effort into the search, taking on a few processes for yourself that state placements handle for you. On the other hand, you have additional options, including international adoptions, which can increase your chances of finding the perfect fit for your new family much more quickly.
Networks for Parents Adopting Privately
Private placement agencies are operating around the country to identify and facilitate these processes, and some lawyers even specialize in this niche as part of a family law practice. They tend to have resources for finding available parents looking to place children soon after birth, so they can help. Lawyers do have costs, though, as do agencies that do the legwork to bring people together.
Private religious institutions are also known for both placing children through voluntary processes and also for maintaining larger networks with other organizations looking to place kids.
Catholic organizations are especially good at this, in part due to the church’s international efforts toward child welfare and in part because of its traditional investment in institutions like hospitals. If you are seeking a private process and you’re intent on adopting an infant, these networks can be a huge help. Luckily, for those who are considering adoption as a biological parent, the demand is high enough that working with a good agency that has an established reputation should be all you need to find a range of possible placements for your child.